In the ensuing firefight, government forces shelled the rebel position and the surrounding neighborhood, and a group of attack helicopters appeared.
When it got dark, we got the order to return (to our base), Abu Maher said. He said they had expended about half of their ammunition during the fight. I was ready to continue to Midan, but that was not the order. Midan is a neighborhood in central Damascus.
He said his unit saw no further action in the following days. The attack was not a mistake, he said. It was awesome, a great experiment. We are more familiar with our power now.
Later Tuesday night, after learning that the government convoy had been halted, Abu Abdullah and a group of about 150 fighters attacked a government weapons factory in the al Kadam neighborhood, initiating the assault with a homemade bomb against the compounds perimeter.
We attacked after dark, he said, so that they could not use their snipers, and so there would be fewer civilians in the streets. He said the assault continued for 90 minutes, but his unit was unable to penetrate the compound. When government helicopters appeared overhead, his unit withdrew to elsewhere in the neighborhood.
We had six martyrs and 25 wounded, and used about half our ammunition, he said, using the word martyrs to refer to the dead. I know we killed many more of them. Also during the battle some soldiers tried to defect, but they were shot by their own force.
The next day, Abu Abdullah and a contingent of about 60 men attacked the government forces still holding a defensive perimeter around the armored vehicles destroyed by Abu Mahers group the previous night.
We attacked them with RPGs and destroyed most of the vehicles that had not been hit the night before, he said, referring to rocket-propelled grenades. We fought better because of the news of the bombing, and the regime army fought worse. Many of those who were not wounded ran away to the checkpoint. Then the checkpoint began to shoot their own vehicles with tanks, to prevent us from capturing them. In this way, the soldiers who did not run were killed by the regime army. He said his unit suffered no casualties during the four-hour battle.
In all, we used about 75 percent of our ammunition, and eventually after dark we returned (to our base), he said. We could not take any prisoners because of all the tank fire. He said the withdrawal came on orders from his higher commander and was coordinated throughout the city.
He said that in the intervening two weeks, his unit, which he called Katiba al Sahabah or al Sahabah Brigade, had replenished almost all of its ammunition stores and was ready to fight again.
I cannot tell you the exact day we will attack, he said with a barely-hidden smile. But it will be soon.